Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment


September 13, 2007
Ken Burns in Sacramento: 'Luddite' as filmmaker?

Editor's note: Ken Burns, creator of the upcoming PBS documentary "The War," is in Sacramento today, presenting excerpts of the film, doing a signing for a book connected with the project, and leading a screening at the Crest Theatre. We're stalking following the filmmaker for the day. Watch 21Q for updates.

Tv Burns The War.jpg

So here is Ken Burns, the acclaimed documentary director, famous for a cinematic technique called "The Burns Effect," standing before a packed house at the California History Museum and trying in vain to get a DVD in the computer to project onto the screen.

Well, at least Burns had a sense of humor about it.

"Normally, I'd be travelling with my children to do this, but school's started," he says, adding later, "My Luddite status has been completely verified in front of you."

The crowd - ranging from World War II vets to high school history students to politicos such as Secretary of State Debra Bowen - ate it up, chuckling knowingly.

Once the technical difficulties were cleared up, Burns showed a 10-minute clip from the seven-part, 14-hour epic, which will premiere locally on Channel 6 on Sept. 23.

If you happened to glance at Burns during the preview, you would've thought he had never seen the footage before. (In fact, he spent six years gathering and editing footage.) Sitting in the front row, he leaned forward, hand on chin, intently watching. The images, clearly, still enthrall him.

It was somewhat surprising because you figured that - having trotted out the same footage and the same spiel during countless personal appearances the past few months - Burns would take the time to check his BlackBerry or maybe slip out the back for a breather.

But no - the guy has a certain evangelical zeal about "The War."

Before the museum appearance, Burns did interviews with News10's Jonathan Mumm and a crew from Capital TV News. His PBS publicist, Brian Moriarty, watched the 54-year-old Burns work the media and marveled at his stamina.

"I'm almost half Ken's age, and I feel like such a wuss because I can't keep up with him," Moriarty says. (Burns has got five rotating publicists from PBS - Moriarty handles the West Coast.)

After the interviews were over, Burns rejoined Moriarty and joked, "That was my 657th interview for this."

We'd say he's underestimating it a bit. Not only has Burns presented the documentary in each of the four cities featured - Sacramento, Luverne, Minn., Mobile, Ala., and Waterbury, Conn. - he's also recently made stops in Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, etc.

"It's like a relay race," Burns jokes, "but there's no one for me to hand the baton off to."

Make no mistake, Burns is not complaining. He actively seeks every possible venue to hype the documentary - especially as its Sunday premiere will be going up against several new shows in the network fall TV season.

"It's the old high school corollary: If a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to see it fall...well, it's the same for me. If you make a documentary that you really are proud of and no one's there to watch it, did it really happen?" Burns says. "So I don't mind at all answering the same questions about it."

KFBK's Kitty O'Neal, the moderator of the museum event, tried to cover some new ground during the Q&A. O'Neal, noting that now, as then, there was a debate about how much information to give the public about the war, asked Burns to comment on the Iraq conflict.

And Burns didn't back down.

"We debate that very thing today," he says. "Our government doesn't even let us see the caskets coming home."

Burns' only other overtly political statement concerned public sacrifices today versus during World War II: "After 9-11, (the government) told us not to worry our pretty little head and go shopping. We perhaps could've tried to wean ourselves from foreign oil."

But he quickly added: "There's not a political bone in this documentary."

The biggest laugh came when O'Neal asked Burns why he chose Sacramento as a featured city.

Burns: "If you said, pick a West Coast city, your first choice would not be Sacramento." (Big laughs.) It has nothing to do with you. (Chuckles.) We fell in love with Sacramento. But if we chose other cities, like Seattle or San Francisco or Los Angeles, they'd come with too many preconceived notions."

Burns' next stop: a 2 p.m. book signing at The Avid Reader on 16th and Broadway.

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



FOLLOW US | Get more from sacbee.com | Follow us on Twitter | Become a fan on Facebook | Get news in your inbox | View our mobile versions | e-edition: Print edition online | What our bloggers are saying

Categories


October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Monthly Archives